Between the years 2002 and 2008, the United States provided approximately 6.6 Billion dollars in direct military aid to the government of Pakistan, the idea being that this money would be used to increase the capacity of the Pakistani military to fight “terrorism.”

The AP is now quoting two different Pakistani Army Generals who estimate that only about 500 million dollars reached the Army.  The generals are remaining anonymous because Army rules prevent them from commenting publicly.  It would be nice if the United States adopted this idea, then maybe General McChrystal would realize that he isn’t commander-in-cheif…but I digress.

This story was reported by the AP’s Kathy Gannon, who wrote an excellent article on the situation on October 5th, 2009.  It was also reported on October 6th by Rachel Maddow, though Maddow did not speculate on where the stolen money went.

So where did 6.6 Billion in US taxpayer dollars go in Pakistan?  It didn’t go toward developing a military capability against “Al-Qaeda terrorists” or the Taliban.  For example, the Pakistani Army had one working helicopter in 2007.  You would think that helicopters might be a good thing to have when fighting people in mountain strongholds.   You’d be right, as the sources report that 200 Pakistani soldiers were trapped by “insurgents”  in one incident because there was no helicopter to airlift them. The military unit called the “Frontier Corps,” assigned to combat extremists in the north, received no funding whatsoever to train its solders until 2007.

Corruption doesn’t bother me as much as most people.  It all depends on who is being corrupted.  The corrupt official most important to this story is General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former president.  Musharraf, praised by former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice as “one of the world’s most committed partners in the war against terrorism,” (insert laugh track)  embezzelled a great deal US taxpayer money to subsidize the flagging Pakistani economy.  This kind of corruption bothers me less than others, because these bribes do potentially help the actual people of Pakistan occasionally.  Certainly this kind of corruption is a far better use for US taxpayer funds than the Bush administration had originally intended.

Unfortunately, most of the money was not accidentally spent on the Pakistani economy.  Musharraf spent most of it on sophisticated armor piercing anti-tank, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile technology as well as F-16 fighter planes.  Al-Qaeda doesn’t have tanks, planes or ships, but Pakistan’s regional rival India does.   A potential India-Pakistan conflict whether nuclear or conventional would be absolutely disastrous for the United States and the rest of the world, and we should not underestimate the very real animosity between the two nations.  It is based on a history of vicious religious and ethnic conflict between these two peoples that dates back almost to Mohammed.  In the words of General Mahmud Durrani, former Afghan ambassador to the United States:

“Pakistan insisted and America agreed. Pakistan said we also have a threat from other sources,” , referring to India, “and we have to strengthen our overall capacity. “The money was used to buy and support capability against India.”

But lets be perfectly clear how this whole thing worked.  The Bush administration and the congress authorized 6.6 billion in taxpayer money to be doled out to the government (military dictatorship) of Pakistan, supposedly to beef up its anti-terrorist capabilities on its border with Afghanistan.  This money was then spent by Musharraf’s regime on F-16 fighter jets, whose manufacturer is Lockheed Martin.  It was also spent on TOW missiles, manufactured by the Raytheon corporation.  These companies, along with several others, essentially participated in a scheme that funneled taxpayer dollars away from their intended purpose (“fighting duh war on terruh”) and diverted them toward escalating a pre-existing ethnic conflict (India-Pakistan rivalry).

If the Bush Administration had asked US taxpayers if they wanted to give several billion dollars of defense contracts to the Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon corporations so that they could escalate the Pakistan-India conflict, its very likely they would have been rebuffed.  Both the Pakistani people and the Indian people are friends and allies of the people of the United States; most people in the US would want this conflict to end.  Since both parties have nuclear weapons, a full scale war between them is automatically against the interests of all people, and therefore not the kind of thing that US taxpayer money should be spent on.

But there is no accountability in this matter.  Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Wright stated as much:  “We don’t have a mechanism for tracking the money after we have given it to them.”  Well shucks! Of course there are rules that the Pentagon is supposed to follow, but the GAO says these were largely ignored.

Imagine if the US taxpayer had responded to the 9/11 attacks by spending 6.6 billion on  schools with internet access, computers and teachers for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Hah!  Bin Laden and those around him would already have been apprehended and given a fair trial by a court of law if they hadn’t been killed outright by Pashtuns themselves.  Afghan justice is generally somewhat swifter and harsher than our own, especially for foreign outlaws like OBL.  Violent extremism in the Islamic world itself would end within our lifetimes.

Gannon ends her column with a quote from Daniyal Aziz, a minister during the Musharraf regime who describes the situation beautifully:

“They both deserved each other, Musharraf and the Americans.”

So…Mr. President…Mr. Peace Prize winner…as you prepare to make a pivotal decision on the Afghan War…whose interests will you keep in mind?  The interests of the American people and the rest of the world, or the interests of Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon?

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/05/billions-in-us-aid-to-pak_n_309283.html

Read more at: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2009/10/06/us_aid_to_pakistan_a_shell_game/